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Space Survival

To survive the ravages of space, astronauts could, in the future, be genetically engineered, Technology Review writes.

"Let's be clear. No one is trying to grow an astronaut in a bubbling vat somewhere," says Tech Review's Antonio Regalado. But, he notes, that bits of science fiction are looking closer to reality. 

For instance, Cornell's Christopher Mason tells him that people heading to space could be engineered to have additional copies of the p53 gene to protect them from radiation. Likewise, Regalado notes that other helpful gene variants could include the version of EPAS1 that's common among Tibetans that enables them to live in low-oxygen environments as well as variants linked to extra-lean muscles, small stature, or problem-solving skills.

Additionally, Columbia University's Harris Wang is investigating whether human cells can be engineered to make amino acids they usually can't make, though he notes he has no plans to synthesize people.

"But I am suggesting that if you want to do intergalactic travel, you need to solve the problem of being totally self-sufficient," Wang tells Regalado. "We are putting humans in very extreme conditions, and from that perspective this seems to be one idea for a long-term plan."